Spicing the Chile

POSTED ON 20/09/2014

It wasn’t just for image and added value that the late Michael Cox, the charismatic director of Wines of Chile, did his utmost to get more Chilean wine onto the wine list. He organized a tasting of Chilean carmenère with curry to show what great bedfellows the two were. Continuing where he left off, Wines of Chile staged the Chile Sommelier Challenge in London this summer with the same aim. Wine press and sommeliers tasted around a dozen wines in each of five main styles: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, red blends, plus red wines and white wines by the glass.

The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships

POSTED ON 13/09/2014

The brainchild of champagne expert Tom Stevenson, the first Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships were devised after he fell out with Decanter Magazine two years ago. For the inaugural competition at Plumpton College this year, he was joined by acknowledged world champagne specialist, Finnish Master of Wine, Essi Avellan and Tony Jordan, the Australian eminence grise behind the Yarra Valley’s Green point and other Moët et Chandon New World ventures.

The Hit and Myth of Food and Wine Matching

POSTED ON 06/09/2014

Do you ever wonder if the cohorts of sommeliers and wine writers who preach food and wine matching are little more than a vested interest lobby? If you follow general guidelines like red wine with meat and white wine with fish, can you go that far wrong? Possibly not if you accept that such generalities are indeed just guidelines and not rules to be followed slavishly. Drill down further and many of the classic matches like oysters and chablis, mussels and muscadet, port and Stilton, Roquefort and sauternes, lamb and bordeaux, game and burgundy, do genuinely work.

Because You’re Worth It, Mate

POSTED ON 23/08/2014

My co-chair of the Australian panel at this year’s Decanter awards, Michael Hill Smith MW, made three telling observations after the event. First that Australia puts its best foot forward while producers in Europe’s ‘classic’ regions are more cagey about entering. Secondly, that Australia is increasingly showing not just top quality but distinct regional personality. Finally, he supports the late, great Len Evans’ Theory of Capacity: given that a person’s wine consumption is finite, drinking an inferior bottle is like smashing a superior bottle against the wall.

Koshu, The Japanese Grape

POSTED ON 16/08/2014

The Japan Wine Competition which takes place every year in Yamanashi within sight of Mount Fuji grows bigger each year along with the number of Japanese wines and wineries. This year there were close on 800 Japanese wines to be judged by five panels of tasters, with cooler regions such as Nagano, Yamagata and the northerly island of Hokkaido becoming ‘hot’, as it were, for burgundian varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir, and sparkling wines.

Portugal beyond Port

POSTED ON 09/08/2014

One of the more pleasurable tasks undertaken this year was as a guest judge at the Concurso Vinhos de Portugal in Lisbon. Portugal is still widely associated in older British minds with Port and Madeira, so it would be no exaggeration to say that the tasting was a revelation for two reasons. From a country with a reputation as a producer of blended wines, it was interesting to follow the trend towards single grape varieties, even if in part a marketing ploy.

Summer Fizz

POSTED ON 02/08/2014

According to a June report in a.n. other newspaper, thrifty Britons are not just opting for cheap fizz but claiming that ‘prosecco’s just as good as champers’. It’s true that prosecco sales are bursting through the roof but does that mean it’s ‘nearly twice as popular as champagne’ as the paper claims? Take the hype with a large pinch of salt bearing in mind that most prosecco sells on price.

Sauvignon Blanc – To Oak or not to Oak?

POSTED ON 19/07/2014

My secret is out: I’m not generally the world’s greatest fan of sauvignon blanc. Like any other grape though grown in a location suited to its character, sauvignon can transcend the one-dimensional nettle, asparagus and gooseberry characters that are its hallmark and mutate into a wine of greater enjoyment.

Cry Fizz for England, Harry and St.George

POSTED ON 12/07/2014

When English Wine Producers showed their wines to the press and trade ahead of English Wine Week in May, it prompted no less a grand fromage than Hugh Johnson to tweet: ‘A score of truly excellent English bubblies [with] the buzz of a historical moment; something unstoppable’. If ‘cry fizz for Harry, England and St. George’ is excessively patriotic for you, I overheard an Italian wine merchant saying to a German sommelier. ‘I am surprised they are so good. They can really compete on quality with the French’.

Popping Up at Olympia

POSTED ON 05/07/2014

I mentioned last month how, in a change of format, the London Wine Fair had moved back from the wastelands of Excel to its old home of Kensington Olympia. This year, the Wine Gang, of which I am one, was charged with hosting a pop-up tasting of 50 of our best value wines of the year to date. We chose 10 wines each and since it was one of the successes of the fair (I know, I would say that, wouldn’t I), I thought it useful to cherry pick a small selection of the most summery and best value wines from the pop-up tasting. For the full list, check out the link at the end.

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